ページの画像
PDF
ePub

consists, this learned and pious, and every thing but judicious, apologist for the Church of England, proceeds to state. He is very angry at those who hold, that the use of the Holy Sacra' ments,' is no other than to “teach the mind by other senses, " that which the word doth teach by hearing;' arguing from the incapacity of infants to receive instructions, that the Sacraments would in that case be in respect to them a mere superfluity. After enumerating the great store of properties' which attach to them, he concludes that their chief efficacy consists in their being constituted, “ First, as marks whereby to know 6 when God doth impart the vital or saving Grace of Christ unto

all who are capable thereof, and secondly, as means conditional which God requireth in them unto whom he imparteth Grace.

In these vague terms, which might with equal appropriateness be referred to any other of the ordinances of religion, for in this sense, prayer may be termed a Sacrament, the Author appears to think he has given a satisfactory explanation of the nature of the Holy Sacraments. Accordingly, he proceeds at once to assert their necessity, and to vindicate on this point the doctrine and the practice of the Church. In arguing for their necessity, however, the pious divine lies evidently under considerable difficulty, in steering clear of the Popish dogmas, without appearing to invovate on the doctrine of the Church. There prevails throughout this part of his treatise a singular embarrassment, often amounting to the necessity of guarding his assertions by somez thing like contradiction. And he is always glad to escape from the unsteady ground of controversy, in order to give full play to the ardour of his intellect in expatiating upon themes more congenial with his subļime piety. In one passage he tells us, admirably, “That Sacraments contain in themselves no vital

force or efficacy; they are not physical but moral instruments « of salvation, duties of service and worship; which unless we

perform as the Author of Grace requireth, they are unprofitrable. For all receive not the Grace of God which receive the * Sacraments of his Grace.'-They serve, he adds, as moral ? instruments, the use whereof is in our own hands, the effect in “His; for the use, we have his express commandment; for the ? effect, his conditional promise.' Thus far one might imagine the learned writer was quoting the very words of soine old Nonconforinist divine. But he proceeds to affirm, in language less intelligible, that where the Sigos and Sacraments of his Grace are not

either through contempt unreceived, or received with contempt, " we are not to doubt, but that they really give what they promise, + and are what they signify,' For, as he afterwards explains himself, they are indeed and in verity nieans effectual, whereby God is when we take the Sacraments, delivereth into our hands that

[ocr errors]

Grace available unto eternal life, which Grace the Sacraments • represent or signify. The extent in which these words are to be taken, is more clearly shewn in the subsequent sentences, whicb describe the effect of the Sacraments as a real participation of Christ.

It is by no means our object to prove, by these extracts, what is the doctrine of the Church of England respecting Baptism ; that question, as we have already shewn, can be decided only by the declarations of her own Ritual. But they will serve to shew, that it is not the mere application of the term Regeneration to Baptism, or to the supposed effect of Baptism, which constitutes the real subject of controversy : it is rather the notion, which has been almost universally held in the Church, of a certain mystical, indefinite efficacy or Grace,' residing in the sacramental element, when attended with the word which ex' presseth what is done by the element,' which, in some sense, or other, (for there might be formed a graduated scale of opinions on this point, from rank popery down to the sentiments of Mr. Scott,) is available to salvation.

The way in which these notions have originated, appears to be this : The Scriptures declare that “ Except a man be born 66 again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the

kingdom of God.” Hooker, Book V. $59. That is to say, according to the exposition of almost all the ancient divines, Except a man be regenerated by water,—or, at least, baptized us well as regenerated, he cannot be saved. This axiom being once admitted on the supposed authority of Scripture, the Fathers were naturally led with anxiety to explore, first, what constitutes effectual baptism ; and, secondly, why baptism was made by our Lord himself a condition of salvation

Hooker lays it down as an infallible rule in expositions of Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the

farthest from the letter is commonly the worst.' He will not admit of the possibility of a doubt as to the literal meaning of the passage on which the whole of his assertions and reasonings are founded. The non-institution of Christian Baptism at the ' time of our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus,' as adverted to by Mr. Biddulph, (p. 9.) never seems to have occurred to the learned author of the “ Ecclesiastical Polity," or to any of the Greek or Latin Fathers for whom he manifests so unbounded a deference. Our Lord's words, according to their views, were less designed to teach the necessity of a radical change of heart, than to inculcate obedience to a positive institute not then ordained in the Christian Church. Bishop Hopkins, we believe, is one of the earliest episcopal writers, who contend for a different construction of the passage*. The judgement of antiquity certainly

* See Scott on the Effect of Baptism. p. 33.

was, that the passage is to be taken in its literal meaning; and it was a necessary consequence therefore, that they should view the sacrament of Baptism in the light of an ineffable mystery, a standing miracle of grace analogous to the burning bush, the brazen serpent, and the pool of Bethesda*, and that they sủiould invest it with a meaning,' a great store of properties,' and attribute to it an efficacy, warranted neither by reason nor by Scripture.

The following expressions are used by Hooker, in arguing for its necessity.

in which respect (viz. : that Baptism both declareth and maketh us Christians) we justly hold it to be the door of our (actual entrance into God's house, the first apparent beginning s of life', a seul perhaps to the Grace of Election before re“ceived, but to our Sanctification here, a step that hath not ( any before it. Speaking of re-baptizing, he says, 'How

should we practise iteration of Baptism, and yet teach that ( we are by Baptisın born auen ?'— As Christ hath therefore

died and risen from the dead but once, so that Sacrament < which both extinguisheth in himour formersin, and beginneth (in us a new condition of life, is by one only actual adminis"tration for ever available; according to that in the Nicene

creerl, I believe one Baptism for the remission of sins.' A little further, in contending for the use of the Interrogatories in the Baptism of Infants, he goes so far as to say, that 'till we

come to actual belief, the 'very Sucrament of Faith is a shield • as strong as after this the Farth of the Sacrament against all o contrary infernal powers.' He terms the sacramental element " the Well-spring of new birth wherein original sin is purged.'

But when he comes to treat of Confirmation, we find our Author quoting from the Fathers still stronger language in repect to the efficacy of Baptişm. ' After Baptism adminisi tered, there followeth (saith TerTULLIAN) Imposition of s hands, with invocation and invitation of the Holy Ghost, " which willingly cometh down from the Father, to rest upon

the purified and blessed bodies, as it were acknowledging " the Waters of Baptisin a fit seal. ST. CYPRIAN, in more o particular manner, alluding to that effect of the Spirit - which here especially was respected. How great (saith he) is " that power and force wherewith the mind is here (he meaneth o in baptism) enabled, being not only withdrawn from that « pernicious hold :vhich the world before hud of it, por only « so purified and made clean, that no stain or blemish of

the Enemy's invasion doth remain ; but over and besides (namely, through prayer and imposition of hands) becometh

. * See Hooker. Book, V.57.

« yet greater, yet mightier in strength, so far as to reign with a * kind of imperial dominion over the whole band of that roam

ing and spoiling Adversary.”. As much is signified by EuseBIUS EMISSENU$ saying--The ' Holy Ghost which descendeth " nith saving influence upon the Waters of Baptism, doth • there give thut fulness which sufficeth for innocency, and

afterwards exhibiteth in Confirmation, an augmentation of • further Grace. He adds to these high authorities, the opinion of St. JEROME, that · Baptism by heretics' might be granted "available for remission of sins,' and that the Holy Ghost is received in Baptism, Confirmation being only a Sacramental • Complement.

Lastly, in treating of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Hooker assigns a reason for its not being administered to the unbaptized, which deserves the attention of those who plead the universal suffrage of the Church, in vindication of their insisting on Baptism as a term of Communion. “No man receiveth this Sa

crament before Baptism, because no dead thing is capable of o nourishment' By parity of reasoning, the other means of grace inust be considered as of no efficacy to the unbaptized. The learned Author adds, ' It muy be that the grace of Bap<tism would serve to eternal life, were it not that the state " of our spirituul being is so much hindred and impaired after Buptism.

Dr. Mant, then, surely does not go much further than the great champion of Episcopacy himself, in terming Baptism the - vehicle of salvation, and in affirming, as Mr. Scott says he seems to do, that " we are thereby regenerated, adopted, jus - tified, and sanctified.' Dr. Mant is a consistent Churchman : DIr. Scott is ap inconsistent one; for, despising, as it should seem, the authority which the Church possesses to decide controversies in matters of faith, he makes his appeal to Scripture, with all the simplicity of a staunch Puritan. He adduces numerous passages of Scripture, to shew, in what terms the inspired writers ordinarily proclaimed the salvation of the Gospel to mankind; and then asks,

* Had baptism occupied as large a space in their view, as in Mr. M.'s, had they attributed as extraordinary an efficacy to it, would it not have been much more prominent than it is in their addresses ?

In one place, indeed, St. Paul even speaks of " baptizing" as a very secondary and inferior employment, compared with “ preaching " the gospel.” " I thank God that I baptized none of you, but " Crispus and Gaius ; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine “ own name-For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the " gospel."* I cannot persuade myself, that such language comports with the idea of baptism being so completely. the vehicle of regene. • ration and salvation,' as Mr. M. esteems it. p. 83, 84.

* 1 Cor. i, 14-17.

How then, it is natural to inquire, can it be accounted for, that notions so erroneous should have existed for so many ages? How did such a mistake first obtain the universal assent of the Church? We have seen that it originated in a literal interpretation of a solitary passage of Scripture. In those days, the authority of a Father stood in place of enlightened criticism; and we are not to wonder, therefore, that an error once sanctioned by the Doctors of the Church, should be received with implicit credence. But with regard to Baptism, there were other circumstances which probably conspired to lead those truly devout and pious men, to over-rate its importance. . Baptism having been instituted by our Lord as the symbol and seal of an external profession of Christianity, a compliance with it as an initiatory rite, during the infancy of the Church, was a necessary criterion of the sincerity of the faith and obedience of the Jewish or Heathen convert. It was the sign of a visible and actual change in the character; it testified a renunciation of previous habits and opinions, under circuinstances which almost precluded the operation of sinister motives. A profession of Christianity then, was neither an equivocal nor a nominal change ; and he that was baptized, was not only baptized into the death of Christ, as the fundamental truth and glorious scandal of the new religion, but was considered as “ buried" with him in baptism, as to the interests of the present world. As this was the first step to be taken on the profession of Christianity, it was that expression of subjection to the authority of its Divine founder, and of faith in his resurrection, on which the Apostles would naturally insist, as a sign of conversion. In times of persécution, when so many would be tempted, from the fear of man, to come to Jesus by night, and to avoid the danger attendant on an open profession of the Christian religion, the words of our Lord might almost seem to admit of application in the sense in which they have been so generally misunderstood, and it might have been declared, Except ye be regenerated by the water of Baptism, unless ye thus publicly put on the new man, “ye cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is very probable, that the extravagant notions entertained of the saving efficacy of martyrdom, had a similar origin. The combination of an heroical zeal with very imperfect attainments in religious knowledge, was not then infrequent in the character of the young convert ; and thus it was that martyrdom came to be welcomed and desired, as possessing something of an expiatory, or at least of a meritorious efficacy. To all the external rites of religion, so long as religion itself was, in the sight of the world, ignominious, a more than natural—we had almost said a romantic importance, would be attached in the Christian

« 前へ次へ »